He’s my baby. He’s a good boy! He’d never do nothin’ like what the police are sayin’!”
Every time I saw an interview like this with a suspected something-or-other’s poor, sobbing mother defending her “baby’s” honor and sense of morality, I could just feel my eyes rolling into the back of my head because it was almost always a case with like 35 witnesses positively identifying the poor schmuck as the one who “done it”. It was kind of a hard habit to break when it came time for me to the be one standing face to face with Baby’s mama. It wouldn’t have been all that professional for Objective Reporter to be all eye-rolling and pointing out why Baby was about as innocent as I was stupid and that I was only here to get the quote everyone expected, now would it?
The running joke when I was working in newspapers was that if anyone I knew was doing anything illegal, it was probably best if I didn’t know about it. The better to be believable if it ever came time for me to be the one being asked what Best Childhood Friend or Baby Sister had been like as a child. Did she kick puppies for fun? Had she ever kept track of the number of fish flies (It’s a metro Detroit thing, y’all) she had ripped the wings off of as a child and buried in her backyard fish fly cemetery with each little burial site marked with a twig headstone?
Wait, that last one was me.
The point is that I’m officially screwed if Buttercup ever decides to become a criminal mastermind after certain behaviors witnessed during her last Skype conversation with Nana and her cousin. I set up my MacBook on the carpet next to her dollhouse in the playroom and walked away. When I came back I’m pretty sure the laughter I heard coming from over 2,000 miles away had more to do with the WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, CHILD that I couldn’t help but scream than the fact that Buttercup had a tiny little plastic doll tied by her feet and hanging upside down from the second floor balcony of the dollhouse.
What made matters worse is that my child had taken the time to strip Dolly nekkid, save for her painted on unders, before stringing her up like a trailer trash Christmas light display.
The Prosecution won’t be able to call me as a witness in her defense. That was my first thought.
“Well, this one time she stripped her dolly, hung her by her feet with a pretend garden hose, and laughed like she had a few too many screws loose,” is probably not the response the reporter will be expecting.
Let’s talk numbers, shall we?
- 42% of girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner
- 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves when they’re dieting
- 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies; by the time they’re 17, 78% of them will be
- By the time they’re 17, these girls have seen 250,000 TV commercials telling them they should be a decorative object, sex object or a body size they can never achieve.
- 7 million girls and women under 25 suffer from eating disorders (myNEDA.org)
- 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old. A rise in incidence of anorexia in young women 15-19 in each decade since 1930. Anorexia has the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness. (myNEDA.org)
- 80% of women feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty ad. $20B is spent on beauty marketing in the US annually. That’s a lot of money being spent making women feel worse about themselves.
- Nearly 25 million people – male and female – are suffering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder (myNEDA.org)
- 3-12% of teen boys use anabolic steroids in pursuit of a lean, muscular ideal
Sobering, isn’t it? Especially when you stop to consider the fact these statistics have names and favorite colors and BFFs and plans for what they want to be when they grow up. These statistics have mothers and fathers who love them and think they are wonderful and perfect and are proud of the person their child is growing into. And these are the statistics that inspired the creators of the Feel More Better clothing line by Off Our Chests to ask for your help in petitioning Congress to support legislation requiring magazines to carry Truth in Advertising labels.
I’m a statistic. And by default, so is Buttercup. She is, after all, the daughter of an eating disordered mother. That fact alone puts her at higher risk than that of the general population for developing an eating disorder of her own. I look at her sometimes and hope like hell I’m doing something right.
It can feel like a losing battle, though. Magazines tell us we’re fat and worthless unless and/or until we Lose Four Dress Sizes in Five Minutes and while showing us images of impossibly perfect women made even more impossibly perfect with lighting and angles and Photoshop. Diet plan commercials run regularly during “family friendly” programming. Honey Boo Boo has her own reality show and Barbie isn’t going anyway, no matter what you think of her bullshit proportions.
As much as I’d like to sit every person in the world with the power to hit publish or otherwise broadcast a message meant to show my little girl the path to doubting her confidence and tell them that this shit has to stop now or everyone gets a time out until they’ve learned to treat other people with respect, I know it’s not going to happen.
So I keep the TV limited to Nick Jr. and pre-screen new shows and movies before she sees them. We watch what we say and how we say it and when we say it if she is around because even if we don’t think she is, she is paying attention to what she is hearing and files away what she is seeing. But we can’t block out the world. And frankly, the world kind of sucks.
That doesn’t mean we stop trying, though. And that certainly doesn’t mean that we just sit back and let the media continue to mess with our heads and make out kids self-conscious about rubbing their bellies and smiling after a particularly good meal.
Feel More Better wants the same things and the line’s creators cite their children, a girl and a boy, as their inspiration in asking for your support to “pass federal legislation requiring advertising that’s meaningfully changed the human form through photoshopping or airbrushing to carry “Truth in Advertising” labels. ” No judgement. No moral arguments. Just a simple truth meant to help change the tide.
My favorite line in the Change.Org petition for the Media and Public Health Act? Let’s call a duck a duck and a modified picture a modified picture. All we’re asking is that if you do it – you tell us you did.
It’s an epidemic crisis of self-confidence. Let’s do something about it.
Please take a moment to click here and show your support for the Media and Public Health Act by signing this Change.Org petition. Remember that every statistic has a name. My name is Pauline.
This post originally appeared on Girl Body Pride and is being cross-posted here because 1) it’s important 2) it’s my blog and I can do that, you know and 3) it’s important. Please click through, sign the petition, and then show Feel More Better some love and support on their Facebook page. Also? Thank you.
We left a $10 tip on a $25 bill yesterday on our family lunch date yesterday. We were at Mimi’s Cafe near the Park Place Mall in Tucson. Might seem a bit much for that kind of tip on a relatively small tab, but the server was personable, attentive, and genuine in his interactions with us. Considering how I have very specific food preparation requirements because I’m allergic to everything and that both The Husband and Buttercup are gluten free, and that our server made sure to assure us our food had been prepared safely, and that he then took the extra step to invite us back to see him, he earned that ten spot.
I’m telling you this because I got into a Facebook pissing match a while back with friends (*waves to friends*) when someone posted a photo and then asked a question guaranteed to piss people off once the discussion got started. Or maybe everything was fine until I opened my mouth. Either way, the photo was something like a handwritten note on a napkin left on a table at a restaurant in lieu of the tip. Basically the note told the waitress she had sucked and here’s a tip on how to not suck the next time. The question posed asked friends if they had ever (or ever would) recognize poor service in such a way.
Those of you who know me can just stop reading now because you already know the answer. I once got a waitress fired (her managers call, not my request) after taking the time to explain the horrendous dinner service we had received. It’s been so long I don’t exactly remember what happened anymore, but I can tell you that her manager was pissed and called her over as we were leaving. She ran out in tears not too long after.
I remember not feeling bad.
Another time I was out to dinner with friends and one indicated a peanut allergy when she inquired about a desert. The waitress, instead of admitting she didn’t know the answer, reassured my friend that the desert was safe. And if my friend hadn’t seen the peanut sliver in the brownie chunk sitting on her fork before she placed it in her mouth, really bad things could have happened. But I’m not a bitch. I always give the server or establishment the chance to take the first step to fix a fuck up. In this instance, we got a bill for our full meal, including the desert. So I wrote corporate, we got a redo at the restaurant on the company, and the manager assured us he would be retraining his entire staff to provide a safe eating experience for their guests.
So yes, when I saw that Facebook update, you can bet your ass I shared some thoughts. Customer service is a dying art with so many businesses resorting to forced/automatic gratuity and it’s a sad fact that many of today’s food service workers are the adult equivalent of spoiled children out shopping with their parents and expecting a new toy every time. Why bother behaving if you know you don’t have to work for it? The result is piss poor customer service at all levels of the dining experience and management left with nothing they can do to motivate their staff to stop being assholes and start giving a damn. Basically, the ones who do care about their guests’ experience are shining brilliantly even without trying. And when they do go above and beyond, hold on to your hats because you might be confused about the sudden urge to buy your server a kitten.
That’s what happened when I sat down at the Hilton NY bar on the last night of BlogHer 2012 recently. Service had outright sucked from room to bar and I wasn’t the only one sending out tweets into the vast space of Twitter and Facebook. The general attitude radiating from every server and bartender I had encountered was that they were annoyed by the 5,000 bloggers in attendance, and many picked up on it, tweeted it, and even went so far as to get up and go elsewhere (read: offsite).
I was thirsty after the craziness of the fashion show and hungry because there wasn’t much I could eat, so I sat down at the bar and asked a bartender for a glass of water. And then I asked for another. In the interest of saving him some time with having to deal with the non-paying customer in a sea of insanity, I asked if he could just give me a pitcher and I’d refill my own water as I needed. He smiled, laughed, and waved away the thought. So I sat there, drinking my water, my well never running dry.
His name was Frank. And Frank was shining star. The rest of the restaurant/bar staff I dealt with directly were just assholes.
And I shared these sentiments, maybe minus the colorful language (most of the time), with Jason L. Tresh
Senior Assistant Director Food & Beverage, at the Hilton NY, upon returning home. I told Jason how I had started out as a busser in the same restaurant in which my father waited tables and how I was taught from the first day I worked that I was not being paid to just stand there even if all of my tables had water, chips, and salsa.
“If you don’t have something to do, you find something to do,” he told me. Sir, YES SIR.
By the time I quit the restaurant business at the age of 23, I had ten years under my belt. And an expectation of the level of service I deserved as a guest in any establishment based on the work ethic instilled in me by my father and the level of service I had taken so much pride in providing my own regulars at the various restaurants in which I had worked. I shared all of that with Jason. And I also made sure to ask that Jason recognize Frank for placing a glass of water before me and making me feel like he truly gave a damn.
Before we finished our call, I also thanked Jason for taking more than an hour of his time to not only listen, but to share his own thoughts in what turned out to be a fantastic conversation. The time he spent addressing my concerns and acknowledging my experience as valid. Because shit like that matters, y’all. My thanks to Jason and to Frank, because they deserve it.
I might make a point of notifying my server and management when things need to improve, but I’ll sing your praises when you do your job and make me feel like I’m worth your time.
So we left a $10 tip for our server yesterday. Because he earned it.
Thank you, Steven T. We will be back.
* I once worked in a strip club as a (fully clothed) waitress. While there, I learned that most of the dancers making the big bucks only pretended to get drunk on the $12 mocktail containing only cranberry & orange juice because it made the guys paying for the drink feel like he was going to get somewhere, that the two-and-a-half minute average pole dance on stage was just the right amount of time to scan the crowd for the sucker who would be an easy mark for the $20 lap dance, and that lap dance time was exactly when they composed their grocery lists in their heads because doing the same old thing gets tedious, ya know?
Other highlights included the realization that I could make $300 in tips just from charging $12 for a cup of fruit juice with a tiny umbrella in it and that sometimes the naked girls dancing got pissy if the clothed ones serving drinks got more attention than they did. But the best lesson of all was that sometimes it’s the stereotype exploiting itself that has the upper hand. No one expects to be outwitted by the chick shaking her boobs in the face of a man who isn’t aware he was marked as prey the moment he handed his baseball cap to the bodyguard. It isn’t, after all, just about shaking what your mama gave you. It’s about knowing how to use it.
* I’m Catholic with an asterix, thereby indicating a footnote in tiny print at the bottom of the page. In the interest of time, I’ll just get to the point and tell you that I have always described myself as Mexican-Catholic because it’s exactly not the same as Catholic Catholic. Most Mexican-Catholics that I know are first and second-generation Americans, believe in God and make the sign of the cross whenever an ambulance passes by or they drive by a cemetery, and only go to church for Easter, weddings, funerals, baptisms, and First Communions. We grew up saying the Our Father in Spanish but have probably forgotten most of it by now, truly believe in God and Heaven and that our deceased loved ones will come to watch over us even if we don’t celebrate El Dia de los Muertos, and roll our eyes skyward while forcing ourselves to remain silent when our elder Tias and Tios start going on about things like gays and black people and how white people don’t know how to raise their children while they themselves are preparing a bottle of Pepsi for the four-year-old sitting in the stroller in nothing but a diaper.
We drive past a church on the way to school every day. We’ve only been inside four time in the four years we have been in Tucson. And without being told, Buttercup knows that the day we go to church is the day she gets to wear a pretty dress and hunt for Easter eggs in the courtyard.
* I cried when the ultrasound tech told me I was having a girl. This is not an exaggeration. I had been hoping and praying for a boy and not because of the reasons you might think. Cultural chauvinism and machismo had nothing to do with my tears. Instead, I was bawling while The Husband tried not to laugh too loud and the tech holding the wand on the goop on my bump stood there, silent and utterly confused. But she’s perfectly healthy, she eventually managed to say because It’s a Girl wasn’t usually followed by tears cried by a nearly hysterical pregnant woman who seemed perfectly sane when she had walked in for her ultrasound.
It’s not that, I sobbed. It’s just that…she’s going to eventually turn into a bitchy teenager who hates me and drives me to the closest wine bottle with a bendy straw. I barely made it through my teens the first time.
That’s when The Husband jumped in with The Mother’s Curse and Payback’s a bitch and I just nodded, wondering if maybe God was, in His own Divine Way, giving me the finger.
* I am a body image/healthy self-image/happiness activist who is and most likely always will be broken. I am not standing here looking down from my soapbox telling you that the three keys to happiness and life’s successes are (insert bullshit here). Instead, I am a mostly no-longer-practicing-eating-disordered-behavior-mother-to-a-five-year-old-daughter and I love her with all of my soul. I am imperfect and vain about my eyes, my lips, my curves. I am self-conscious about the size of my ass and always sucking in the muffin top. I tell my daughter that we eat and exercise to be healthy and strong and that our bodies perfect and made exactly as they are meant to be and that what other people think isn’t of any importance, not now and not ever. I am the mother who corrects strangers when they call her big because she stands taller than most kids her age because I stood taller than most kids my age because that word got stuck in my head and manifested itself into bulimia, and I’ll be damned if history is going to repeat itself. So I am the mother who smiles and says Why yes, she is tall for her age, isn’t she? And then I change the subject and wonder how much good I’m actually doing.
That’s when I remind myself that I’m trying. And all I can do is to put the oxygen mask on myself first before taking the time to assist any children or elderly people who may need help with their own. To make a difference for her and anyone else on this analogical airplane inside of my head, I need to take care of me first.
I’ve got a new post up at Girl Body Pride today. And I thank you for taking the time to peek inside of my head.